Thursday, July 5, 2012

I can hear the morning birds if I listen

I can hear the morning birds if I listen, 2012, collage on paper, 70 x 100 cm (detail)

Last days of my show! Ends THIS SATURDAY! OH MY GOODNESS!!!!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

BLADE RUNNING: Nostalgia under the knife

Hello all! To celebrate/commemorate/farewell the final week of my show at Anna Pappas Gallery, I thought I'd share the catalogue essay written by the ever-clever Tai Snaith! If you haven't already, you have until Saturday to see the show - pip pip!

Traditionally when we think of post apocalyptic visions we are inclined to imagine bleakness. Arid, desolate highways towards nothingness and night. Or places where Mad Max-esque machines roar past in clouds of dust towards wintery, nuclear coastlines. In the collage world of Lucy James it’s a different vision. She imagines a new age of yearning for another beginning. A bright white, hypothetical,  happy post-apocalypse. She presents a different tint to our future memories. Vignettes of people and creatures exist in a strange limbo between fiction, history and assemblages of half-truths. Nostalgia goes under the knife to deliver us a new past for us to look forward to in a parallel universe.

James’ images seem to be selling us something we can’t quite put our finger on, but we know we want. Something we are charmed by, something we think we might need, but we are slightly apprehensive about what might happen if we fully let ourselves go there.

These images possess a sweet, slightly detached yet irresistible irony. Not saccharin or sentimental but not nasty or dark either. Vaguely patriotic signifiers remind us of nationalistic Pie in the Sky promises. Familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. Run of the mill and blade-runner in one hit. Looking at these images we can’t help but imagine they are a kind of propaganda for a new political party that exists exclusively in our collective unconscious. Like they are something we just don’t understand yet, but very well may in times to come. Like the absurdist dreams of a future incarnation of Leni Riefenstahl.

In her memoir, Riefenstahl writes of her first impression of hearing Hitler speak;

"I had an almost apocalyptic vision that I was never able to forget. It seemed as if the Earth's surface were spreading out in front of me, like a hemisphere that suddenly splits apart in the middle, spewing out an enormous jet of water, so powerful that it touched the sky and shook the earth".

Using second-hand imagery from this era, James has created a similar, hypnotically beautiful post-modern epiphany. The finished images seem to amass a haze of snippets and glimpses of a new reality. Full-figured, red body-suited marching girls dissolve mysteriously into a cloud of blue flowers. Young boys excitedly catch bolts raining from the sky as if they were Easter eggs. Perfectly normal and yet completely, deliciously absurd.

There is also an undeniable whiff of the American dream in these works. The girl clutching the car, or the erudite 1950s stereotype of a mother waggling her finger as birds explode and cascade out from her neck. There is something of an anti-dream lesson here too.

An impression of exoticism and spiritual aspiration is detectable in these works. Like a rich collector displaying an ancient pipe brought back from the Middle East or a taxidermy endangered species of owl, there is a sense of forcing a relic to perform as a lifestyle symbol. These symbols may seem playful and light to some people, while to others they may represent everything that is problematic about fetishising the exotic.

James has a knack for selecting a vivid, yet delicate palette of subjective content and arranging them just so. Often reminiscent of a propagandist campaign, but unlike propaganda, this is subjective material without an aim. Or perhaps with an oblique aim. She has found the recipe for encouraging literal signifiers to coagulate into an informative nonsense conclusion. A visual wild goose chase that ends down the rabbit hole.

The images are constructed by a combination of surgical precision and a conceptual lucky dipping of sorts, like cutting tiny fragments of dreams and transplanting them onto fresh white sheets of paper reality. Hours of laborious and meticulous cutting are followed by a type of controlled happenstance whilst she is assembling. This finely crafted series of not-quite-real revelations on stark white are as unsettling as they are intriguing. after the end is about collecting, cutting and constructing dreams out of images of a bright future that looks a bit like the distant past.

Tai Snaith, 2012


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